Leveling Up Your 1:1s

How to run the kind of 1:1s your reports want to show up to

July 14, 2022
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How would you describe your job to a five year old?
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What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
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Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
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Do prefer working from home or the office?
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If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
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What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
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If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
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What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
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What is your favorite season?
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Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
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Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
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One on ones are the most valuable tool a manager has to connect with, influence, and align with their direct reports.

It is also one of the most stale, unstructured rituals we have in the corporate world. This is not for a lack of trying. We schedule one on ones, we show up to them, we expect our reports to show up in return. Maybe we even jot down some questions in advance. As a result of its ubiquity, it’s a ritual that has undergone little to no reflection.

What is a 1:1 for? Why is it valuable? How can we make the most of our 1:1s?

These are the essential questions that go unanswered.

Firstly, your 1:1 is not just for you. It’s for your report too.

It is time that is dedicated and set aside, should they need it, to access you as a thought partner, a career coach, a source of institutional knowledge, a confidant, and a lever to get shit done.

There’s a tendency for managers to use 1:1s as time for bonding, for getting visibility into their reports tasks, and checking on status of ongoing projects. These feel like the ways to get what a manager wants: productive, engaged, happy employees.

But those things do not feel that way to direct reports.

Too much time spent on personal matters is not bonding for them, it’s a distraction from what is far more valuable, leveraging you to accelerate their growth and their work.

Checking in on tasks and projects doesn’t feel like you’re looking for opportunities to help, it looks like you’re looking for opportunities to micromanage.

What instead do direct reports want?

They want to learn. They want to be effective. They want to be recognized. They want to be rewarded.

As managers, first we need to educate them. The 1:1 is their time to make progress on all of those goals. It is meant to be useful, not just to be habitual. It’s there if they want it. It’s cancellable if they don’t.

Then we need to empower them. The 1:1 is theirs. They can change it. They can cancel it. They can call it early.

When reports understand this and managers create a space where those principles are upheld and encouraged, the 1:1 becomes the best meeting of the week and the only time when their career, their growth, and their needs are prioritized above the day to day concerns of the business.

How do we actually structure our 1:1s so that these principles shine through?

A blank calendar event with no agenda doesn’t really say anything at all. It says, figure it out yourselves. It places the burden on you and on your report to make the meeting good, week after week, month after month, by force of will and charisma alone. This might work for a while, but eventually, you’ll both run out of steam.

Instead, rather than put the burden on the two of you to structure the conversation organically, we can leverage technology to take some of the work out of it and make it more natural to do what we really are yearning to do: get to the point.

At Assembly, our approach to 1:1s is to build the structure in by creating an automated workflow that runs alongside the meeting using our own product. That workflow triggers a form that asks us to reflect on a set of key questions before each meeting. This means both parties show up prepared for the meeting and that the first moments of the meeting can be spent isolating what needs to be talked about, rather than just warming up and chatting hoping it leads to something of value.

By asking the questions beforehand and answering in advance, reports have the ability to actually stop and think. What do I need help with? How am I feeling? What is the best way I can leverage my manager right now?

With that baked in moment of reflection, the meeting can be driven by intentionality, rather than by professional niceties.

What are the questions you’d want to ask your report to value? Maybe it’s about how best you can help. Maybe you want to ask how empowered they’re feeling?

Whatever the question, Assembly allows you to customize a set of questions and the cadence along which you ask those questions so that you can set up a workflow once and then reap it’s benefits automatically for the rest of your relationship with your report.

It’s a living workflow, constantly able to be critiqued, changed, updated, and adapted to better suit each report at each stage of their career even as their needs change.

Rather than create the workflow in a vacuum though, deciding on the questions yourself, the most powerful way to build a flow is to work together with your report to decide what questions work and don’t work. Which ones they find valuable that cut to the core of what they need you for, rather than just providing a pleasant thing to chat about.

At the end, you and your direct report will have a written record of how they have changed, improved, and performed over all of your 1:1s and be able to access historical trends in how their responses have changed over time.

This becomes its own valuable tool as a manager, to prepare for review season, to structure a promotion plan, to evaluate compensation.

It is equally or perhaps even more valuable for your report. They can have a view into all of their accomplishments, all of the feedback they’ve received, all of the ways you’ve shown up for them as a manager, and they can use that to advocate for themselves, make decisions, and grow.

When we go from doing our 1:1s face-to-face, synchronous, and agendaless to running them in a way that are focused, written, and accessible we unlock the unique value of the 1:1 meeting and we open up the room to have a really valuable manager-report relationship.

That’s what we want. That’s what our reports want. And in a world where tenures are growing and shorter and shorter and most people leave jobs due to being poorly managed, it may be just what our employers need.

Originally appeared here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered